School board OKs preliminary levy decrease; Unanimous vote okays 1.84 pct. drop

Published 10:10 am Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Austin Public School was looking toward St. Paul as it set its preliminary 2017 payable levy and looked to future years Monday.

During a school board work session, the board voted unanimously — with members Mary Jane Kestner and Don Leathers absent — to approve a preliminary $6.6 million levy, which would be a 1.84 percent decrease from the last years $6.77 million levy.



Director of Finance and Operations Mark Stotts called it one of the first steps in the process for setting the payable 2017 school year levy.

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The levy is largely driven by formulas coming from the Minnesota Legislature, and Stotts added the board has little discretion over setting the actual levy.

Though Austin’s levy has stayed even or decreased for about four or five years, Stotts said it’s difficult if not impossible to predict future years’ levies. That’s because the formulas are changed frequently by the state.

“There’s nothing on the horizon, but the biggest challenge is trying to predict what the Legislature’s going to do,” Stotts said. “They tinker with these formulas unbeknownst to most people.”

But Stotts said Austin has been fortunate, and he doesn’t see huge increases to the levy unless there are Legislative changes.

Wescott dome

In talking about the 2017 payable levy, the board briefly discussed the Wescott Athletic Complex dome and turf.

Since dome funds come out of the general operating budgets, Stotts said they don’t have an impact on the levy since the district paid for the dome with the help of The Hormel Foundation.

Stotts said the dome’s first year was very successful. Last year, the dome’s utilities costs came in around $130,000, well below the $200,000 budget.

The district still had an expected loss in the dome’s budget, but Stotts expects it will be close to breaking even in its second year now that the word is out and most people had a good experience with the dome last year.

The district is setting aside money through long-term facilities maintenance revenue to replace the turf and dome in the future, because the turf’s life is predicted as 10 to 15 years. Stotts expects Art Hass to be replaced at about 10 years because it’s used almost year-round with the dome.

“We’re following our business plan that we had in place,” he said.